Niagara Falls has long been a destination for royalty, celebrities and trust-fund babies.
Why, Napoleon’s brother even made the trek with his bride in the early 19th century, almost single-handedly beginning the trend of the Falls as a spot for both vacationing honeymooners and the well-heeled.
All the while, a steady stream of dignitaries and other notable people have made Niagara Falls seem like it might require pockets a little too deep for the vacationing bargain hunter.
It turns out, however, that nothing could be further from the truth, because you can have a pretty stellar vacation on relatively little cash if you plan well and take advantage of discounts and freebies. From free bird sanctuaries to spectacular hikes, the Honeymooners Capital of the World can be enjoyed with little expense.
The Niagara Falls area offers a remarkable amount of outdoor and nature-based activities that are — for the most part — completely free and teeming with learning opportunities, great stories and occasional adventure.
Here is a quick look at some of the best hiking, bird-watching, botanical sightseeing and more.
Hiking Niagara Glen
This hike is so family-friendly it even has a restroom.
The trail clocks in around two miles, and it will give you a great view of the Niagara River, including rapids.
Much of the trail is smooth and flat, but there are some steep and rocky places, so be sure to sport proper footwear.
Hiking Niagara Gorge
This tail is another easy one that goes right down to a rocky beach in front of a whirlpool where the fishing is excellent.
The hike only takes about an hour and includes about 300 stairs.
Fishing can be an enjoyable way to spend the day, but if you do want to fish, you’ll need a license.
In Canada, a daily license costs $20, but if you get lunch and dinner out of it, that’s a pretty solid bargain.
Rainbow Bridge Walk
Not just a bridge for automobiles, the Rainbow Bridge has a great footbridge that shows the dividing line between the United States and Canada.
Children love being able to have one foot in each country.
Technically, this walk isn’t free, but at only $.50 a person, it is pretty close.
Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture
A few miles north of the Falls on Niagara Parkway, this 40-hectare garden experience is easy and breath-taking.
Paved paths divide the perennials, rhododendrons, azaleas, shade trees, herbs, vegetables and over 2,400 roses that make up the garden.
It’s wheelchair accessible, and admission is free, although you may have to pay for parking.
This bird sanctuary and park sits along the shores of Lake Ontario and features a petting zoo, playground and plenty of picnic areas.
It’s not a very large place, so older children may get bored easily, but it’s beautiful and fun for smaller kids and adults.
The Old Scow
For anyone who loves a good story, The Old Scow is a must-see.
A flat-bottomed boat marooned above the Falls back in 1918, the scow was being towed upriver by a tug, when the towline broke and the scow began to drift.
The two men onboard quickly opened the dumping hatches, which kept them from going over the Falls, but they were still stranded in the middle of a swift and raging river so close to the Falls that rescue seemed impossible.
You won’t find spoilers here, but what happened next is a great story of perseverance and heroism that everyone can enjoy.
The Floral Clock
While it won’t take up too much of your time, this unique timepiece is still worth a visit.
Its face is planted with greenery and flowers that are changed twice a year by the Niagara Parks, and the back of the clock is often left so you can see its inner mechanisms at work as it keeps time.
Falls Manor Restaurant
The Falls Manor Restaurant is located in the city of Niagara Falls and is home to one of the best — and cheapest — meals in the area.
Whether you’re craving eggs Benedict or a Hungarian sausage nurger, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation when you’re eating, but not while you’re paying the bill.
Niagara Falls is a great place to visit for any type of budget.
If you’re looking to save money without suffering the consequences, the Honeymooners Capital of the World is a sure bet.